4⌄ And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Mark 1:4
  • Author: Flavius Josephus
  • Created: Flavian Imperial Cult

We start with words from Isaiah co-opted by Caesar, so technically, he’s the first character in the story, and John the Baptist is the second, but Caesar is just a voice and John is the first character to be described and to be shown in action. Because baptism is such a significant feature of modern Christianity, it’s challenging to see any meanings to it beyond what modern rite provides. Here, we see the beginnings of this rite, and trying to understand what it meant to the people in the story at that time is not intuitive.

Here, we take note of these glossary terms:

In modern American parlance, a preacher has only the strength of their oratory atop the bully pulpit to persuade their audience. There are no laws or civil governmental structures that can force any member of a congregation to perform as dictated by a priest, reverend, or minister. Some Christian groups maintain the tradition of expulsion, thus removing non-compliant members from the larger group. And just as there are no laws to prevent this, there are also many other similar groups to belong to, so it’s not really the kind of threat it had been when the Catholic church was the only source of civilization. Consequently, it’s a great challenge for us to remember that John in this story isn’t trying to be convincing, and doesn’t have to be: all of Judea is there because it has been demanded of them to do so.